Calls to install a left turn signal at a busy intersection in Bay Ridge have fallen on deaf ears according to local residents and community representatives.
It was hoped the signal would be installed at Bay Ridge Parkway and Seventh Avenue for cars making a left turn going towards the lower numbered blocks.
Those who lobbied for it considered it incredibly important as the crosswalk there is used heavily by students at William McKinley Junior High School at 74th Street, and St Ephrem’s School, at Bay Ridge Parkway, going to and from school.
Coupled with the large volume of vehicular traffic, it’s an accident waiting to happen according to resident John O’Brien, whose daughter attends McKinley.
“It’s like they want something bad to happen before it gets fixed,” he said. “It’s dangerous.” O’Brien cited numerous personal close calls he has had, both as a pedestrian and driver.
“I actually almost hit someone,” he said. “It’s really busy, people speed up around yellow lights, and traffic just won’t let you go.”
According to long-time area resident Anthony Pedesco, as the morning arrival and afternoon release of students sees hundreds of children traversing the intersection, the situation is an incredibly dangerous mix.
“There have always been accidents there,” he commented. “The kids are going to and from the bus stops. There’s a lot of traffic.”
Pedesco, who lives at 73rd Street and Eighth Avenue, points out that though the DOT installed a divided turn-lane on Bay Ridge Parkway it does little to address the safety issues. “People just continue to go straight, they jump the light. It’s very, very dangerous.”
Even with crossing guards stationed on the corners near both schools, both men believe it does little to alleviate the danger students face at the crosswalk.
These concerns have been made well known to government officials. Late last year, a request was sent via former Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s office to have a left turn signal installed on the corner in question.
The reply from the Department of Transportation came around six months later according to Pedesco, and was not what concerned residents had hoped to hear. The DOT denied the request after completing an investigation.
According to a letter from department officials, “Left turning vehicles were able to find adequate gaps in opposite traffic streams to turn left without conflict.”
Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who lobbied on behalf of the turn signal, was very surprised the request was not approved. “It is a very difficult left turn to make, I’m there often and I’m very surprised it was denied by the DOT,” she commented.
Residents are still holding out hope, though, and O’Brien is not backing down. Citing the recent deaths of two children in a car accident in Park Slope, he plans on continuing his fight.
In fact, he’s organized a Change.org petition, which has already received hundreds of signatures, to have the DOT reevaluate its decision. He hopes to gather enough support that officials finally put in place safety measures that could avoid a tragedy.
He has the backing of the current Councilmember, Justin Brannan. “For every traffic light or speed bump we’ve requested and were successful in having installed, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve received a response from the DOT that said: traffic conditions did not meet nationally recognized traffic engineering safety standards required for installation of a traffic control,” Brannan told this paper. “We have a very good working relationship with the DOT but they need to listen to and trust the community. Nobody knows better than the residents and parents who traverse our streets day in and day out taking their kids to school or going to work. I support Mr. O’Brien’s petition and admire his grassroots advocacy. When the community speaks, our government needs to listen!”
“You can prevent [a tragic accident],” O’Brien said. ““God forbid some kid gets hurt, it’s my worst fear.”